Securing Copyright Permission

There are two ways to obtain permission to use copyrighted materials. You may either contact the copyright holder directly, or you may use a rights clearinghouse.

Whether you are contacting a rights holder directly, or using a clearinghouse, you will need to have the following information:

  • Exact description/citation of the work to be used/copied
  • Exact description of what rights you are requesting (how you plan to use the work); you must request (and pay, if applicable) for each type of right you request.

For example , if you are granted the right to use an image in a PowerPoint presentation, it doesn’t mean you have the right to use that image in a paper you are writing, unless you have also been granted that right.

If you choose to contact the rights holder directly, please:

  • Use this sample letter (pdf) to guide your request.
  • Get permission in writing – a telephone call or voicemail is not sufficient. E-mail is OK, but a physical signature is best.
  • Give yourself plenty of time (1-3 months)!

If you choose to use a copyright clearinghouse, be aware that different clearinghouses deal with different types of works:

For text/print materials (books, journal articles, etc), visit the Copyright Clearance Center

For online text materials, visit iCopyright

For musical recordings, visit the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers or BMI

For art images, visit the Artists Rights Society

Columbia University's Copyright Advisory Office also provides an extensive list of clearinghouses/licensing agencies.

The organizations listed here and on Columbia's site do not represent every author/creator or type of work – if you are having trouble locating rights for a specific work, please contact Pacific's Copyright Help Desk at